Pets can carry same 'superbug' strains as their owners - 8 News NOW

Pets can carry same 'superbug' strains as their owners

© iStockphoto.com / Joe Potato © iStockphoto.com / Joe Potato
By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study may provide the best evidence yet that the superbug known as MRSA can travel between humans and their pets, although researchers caution that people shouldn't worry too much about the germ lurking in their cats and dogs.

In the big picture, the findings reveal how the use of antibiotics can affect germs that infect both people and animals, explained study author Ewan Harrison, a research associate with the University of Cambridge in England.

The research also shows how "infectious diseases in humans and animals are intrinsically linked and should be seen as a single problem to be addressed jointly by human and veterinary medicine," he said.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, causes infections in the skin, in the bloodstream and elsewhere in the body.

Once mainly limited to sick people in hospitals and nursing homes, MRSA has spread into the world at large, often infecting healthy people such as prisoners and athletes who share supplies like towels and razors. MRSA can be deadly, and it can't easily be vanquished by antibiotics.

It's no secret that MRSA can travel between species. In one well-known case, a newborn elephant at a zoo died after a human taking care of her accidentally infected her with MRSA.

But while some types of MRSA appear "to be able to transmit easily between different species, others seem to be restricted to one or a small number of animal species, possibly due to specific adaptations to one species making the bacteria less able to infect others," Harrison said.

In the new study, the researchers sought to better understand how MRSA travels between species. They analyzed the genetic makeup of MRSA strains from cats and dogs in England and discovered evidence of a "human source" for the germs in the animals.

The researchers also found evidence that the MRSA germs in the animals were developing resistance -- immunity -- to the antibiotic clindamycin, which veterinarians use in the U.K. The germs were less likely to have developed immunity against the antibiotic erythromycin, which is used less.

"This demonstrates how the use of antibiotics in both human and animals medicine can alter the population of a bacteria that can causes infections in both," Harrison said.

It's not clear if the same goes for other types of germs, he said.

Dr. J. Scott Weese, an associate professor with the department of pathobiology at the University of Guelph in Canada, said the study "doesn't change anything but does give more support to the ongoing hypothesis that pet MRSA is ultimately usually human in origin."

"Since MRSA in pets is usually human-associated, if someone's dog has MRSA, the owner is probably either the source or there's someone else in the household that is MRSA-positive and probably a greater source than the dog," he said.

What to do?

"Pet owners shouldn't be overly concerned directly about MRSA in their animals other than reinforcing the message of good hygiene when handling pets," Harrison said. Experts recommend frequent hand washing when a pet or his or her human has a MRSA infection.

As for future research, "we are currently using similar genome sequencing technology to understand transmission between humans and animals in a veterinary hospital setting," Harrison said. "We also hope to investigate larger collections of different types of MRSA to discover whether the findings of our study are more general to other types of MRSA."

The study was published online recently in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

More information

For more about MRSA, try the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Paula's Health NotesLas Vegas Health NewsMore>>

  • New procedure to help Lipedema

    New procedure to help Lipedema

    Friday, August 22 2014 3:55 PM EDT2014-08-22 19:55:58 GMT
    Some women just can't lose weight and for the estimated 11 percent of women with a chronic disorder, diet and exercise won't help at all. Now, there is a new procedure doctors are now using that can help restore their appearance.More>>
    Some women just can't lose weight and for the estimated 11 percent of women with a chronic disorder, diet and exercise won't help at all. Now, there is a new procedure doctors are now using that can help restore their appearance.More>>
  • Fixing gerd for good

    Fixing gerd for good

    Tuesday, August 19 2014 3:21 PM EDT2014-08-19 19:21:39 GMT
    Acid reflux disease, a condition commonly known as “GERD”, affects about one-third of Americans. It can cause pain, coughing, heartburn and can even lead to cancer. Now, a simple procedure may fix GERD for good.More>>
    Acid reflux disease, a condition commonly known as “GERD”, affects about one-third of Americans. It can cause pain, coughing, heartburn and can even lead to cancer. Now, a simple procedure may fix GERD for good.More>>
  • Ice cold heart therapy

    Ice cold heart therapy

    Friday, August 15 2014 5:05 PM EDT2014-08-15 21:05:13 GMT
    A trial fibrillation affects about 2.7 million Americans. It's a condition that causes heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Now doctors are freezing the problem away.More>>
    A trial fibrillation affects about 2.7 million Americans. It's a condition that causes heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Now doctors are freezing the problem away.More>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.